Deputy Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, Nariman Dzhelialov, says Russia-controlled occupation authorities in Crimea are considering ways to put pressure on lawyers defending captured Ukrainian sailors, prisoners of war.

“There are 34 lawyers in the defense team of Ukrainian POW sailors. It's 13 lawyers from Crimea and 18 – from Moscow. Another three are in reserve. Obviously, Russian authorities and their Crimean subordinates did not expect that Crimea residents, including Crimean lawyers, would stand up to defend Ukrainian sailors. I'm sure Crimean leadership perceived this fact almost as a personal insult, as another sabotage of propaganda pictures of universal consent and well-being in Crimea,” wrote Dzhelialov.

Referring to his sources, he said occupation authorities in Crimea "are sifting through options to do something to these Crimean lawyers to make them drop the idea to defend Ukrainian sailors."

According to Dzhelialov, he does not know whether these orders were handed down from Moscow or was it about those in Crimea who were overly anxious.

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“But we can well expect further attempts to put pressure on lawyers, following the example of Feigin, Polozov, Kurbedinov, Benyash, and others, aimed to at least make them drop out of the case of Ukrainian POW sailors, or, at most, to deprive them of their right to practice law. And this would lead to much more serious consequences as dozens of political prisoners, today or tomorrow, will be left without defense,” noted Dzhelialov.

UNIAN memo. On the morning of November 25, Russia blocked the passage to the Kerch Strait for the Ukrainian tugboat "Yany Kapu" and two armored naval boats "Berdyansk" and "Nikopol," which were on a scheduled re-deployment from the Black Sea port of Odesa to the Azov Sea port of Mariupol.

The Ukraine Navy Command noted that the Russian side had been informed of the plans to re-deploy the vessels in advance in accordance with international standards to ensure the safety of navigation. The Russian coast guard ship "Don" rammed the Ukrainian tugboat, damaging the Ukrainian vessel. As the Ukrainian boats were heading back in the Odesa direction after being rejected passage via the Kerch Strait, Russian coast guards opened aimed fire on them.

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All 24 crew members on board were captured and later remanded in custody for two months, being charged with "illegal border crossing" (the sailors are facing up to six years in prison). Three crewmen were wounded in the attack. Russian-controlled "courts" in occupied Crimea ruled that all 24 detainees should be remanded in custody, after which they were transferred to the Moscow-based Lefortovo and Matrosskaya Tishina detention centers.

Moscow's Lefortovo district court on January 15-16, 2019, ruled to keep all Ukrainian sailors in remand until April 24.